Life at 33 1/3: Close to perfection

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Steely Dan, Gaucho (MCA)

From the vaults of Carl Meyer, an original album review written in December 1980.

“If this music is what the Sex Pistols tried to kill, I’m happy they lost.” (Carl Meyer, March, 2015)

The aesthetics of music: Becker & Fagen plus an array of famous musicians, bitten by the art of self-indulgence.  They enjoy one another and every note they produce.  Locked in a vacuum that tickles the senses, but leads nowhere, it doesn’t need to, this music has arrived.  The rhythm structure is like a sequel to “Aja”.  But “Gaucho” is even more delicious and tasty … and shows every sign of a further development towards aesthetic perfection.

The horns are punchier and play an important role in the arrangements.  Then there’s this vibrating, melancholy electric piano which seizes large parts of the soundscape.  And a cathartic female choir lifting you higher.  The guitar acts like a necessary antidote (dry and edgy, delivering swift licks and bended blue notes), it cuts into the tasty morsel, giving the music a most welcome shot of adrenaline.

However, the rhythm is what “Gaucho” is all about.  This phlegmatic play with syncopations.  So controlled and polished, and yet so playful.  A lisping glamour shuffle.  Is it funk?  Jazz?  Hispanic?  Rock?  Let’s just say it’s contemporary.

“Gaucho” promises enjoyment so delicious that you tear the cellophane off the LP and just wanna sink your teeth into the grooves with a trembling sigh.

Released: November 21, 1980

Produced by: Gary Katz

Contents: Babylon Sisters/Hey Nineteen/Glamour Profession/Gaucho/Time Out of Mind/My Rival/Third World Man

Personnel:

Donald Fagen & Walter Becker with among others: Rob Mounsey, Steve Khan, Larry Carlton, Mark Knopfler, Hugh McCracken, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Tom Scott, Michael Brecker, David Sanborn.